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Friday, March 2, 2012

Seed Swap

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
My yellow crocus buds are starting to show some color, the tips of the earliest daffodils and tulips are breaking through the surface, and a few robins have shown up to glean the last of the Russian olives still clinging to the bare branches. Spring is on the way!

And that means it's time to start thinking about starting some garden seeds - inside for the tomatoes and peppers, and maybe a few lettuces and hardy greens outside. I have quite a few of my own seeds, gathered from last year's plants. Over time, it means many of the vegetables I grow are now perfectly adapted to my own local climate. Other gardeners in my area do the same.

By trading seeds, we can insure that the time and effort we've put into saving and perpetuating our locally-adapted seeds isn't lost should disease or animals ravage our own garden. With luck, someone else's plot survived.

A local greenhouse hosts an annual seed swap each Spring. Everyone is welcome to come and get seeds. There's an optional donation jar for those that don't have any seeds to trade, but no one is turned away or denied the chance to grow their own garden.

The greenhouse provides long tables, protected from the wind, little envelopes, and plenty of pencils to label your choices. Some folks show up just long enough to drop off their contributions, others spend an hour or more there, answering questions about the things they brought, trading advice about their best growing or harvesting methods. Cool season crops, such as the brassicas, greens, and peas fill one table, tomatoes and peppers another. Flowers have their own area, and assorted vegetables line the last table.

Some gardeners make their own little seed envelopes, complete with information labels or growing instructions. Others just bring little baggies or envelopes of seeds to pour out on the paper plates provided, others bring bring platefuls already labeled. Little spoon/straws make the perfect utensils to scoop loose seeds into an envelope, some people just push a few from plate onto a piece of paper and fold up their own carrier.

Some have winnowed and cleaned their seeds. Others might bring in an entire seed stalk or a couple of dried peppers, and break them apart on the spot. Some seeds have specific variety names, others are just generic, still others are just vague descriptions of something that might have volunteered in their garden and seemed to thrive in our high-desert climate.

Caveat emptor - let the buyer beware (except it's all free). Sometimes, especially with the corns, pumpkins and squashes, you're taking your chances on what you'll actually end up with in this year's garden. So many of those seeds cross-pollinate so easily, and while it wouldn't affect the appearance of last year's crop, the seeds harvested then and planted this year might turn out completely different.

But it's a great way to build community, meet with like-minded folks, share tips and learn, and get more people interested in growing their own food. Why not start a seed swap in your community?

3 comments:

Eric said...

I just hosted a seed exchange here last month on the 19th!
It was wonderful! It was the first of hopefully many. About 10 people came, and a reporter. I have high hopes for my next one.

ThisIsMySimpleLife said...

What a great idea! I have participated in another kind of swapping seeds, arranged by some chili-enthusiasts here in DK, it was a package that was sent around, with mostly seeds from the growers own chilis but also some that was bought. The idea was to take a few seeds of the types one was interested in, and leave some of ones own before sending the package to the next person on the list. People without any of their own put in some that was bought to ensure the variety and amount of seeds. Of course this method costed everyone the price of sending the package, and did not offer the chance of meeting with like-minded people and learning from others. I really like the idea of the swap meet!

Tiffany @ No Ordinary Homestead said...

Got to try it, what we did was cooked veggies swapping... Well that depends on how we cook it lol... This idea is interesting for us to have an assorted vegetable farm... I actually host a weekly gardening link up every Friday on my blog. I'd love for you to drop by and join in.